The chaos in the leadership of far-right party Forum voor Democratie descended into open warfare on Wednesday as its founder Thierry Baudet declared a leadership election despite having no mandate.
Three board members initially said Baudet had been removed with immediate effect after he posted a video on the party’s official Twitter account announcing the election and declaring himself the first candidate.
Astrid de Groot, a member of the governing board, retorted when asked: ‘This was not a decision by the board! Write that down!’ She, acting chairman Lennart van der Linden and MEP Rob Rooken supported the decision to remove Baudet, but the party’s Twitter account, which Baudet still controls, later clarified that the decision could only be taken by members.
Three days after condemning the public row over unchecked racism in the party’s youth movement as ‘trial by media’, Baudet said he was going back on his decision to resign as leader and chairman on Monday because he had been the victim of ‘character assassination.’
In the two-minute video, Baudet said: ‘The calm that I wanted to restore has not been restored. The opposite has happened: a bitch fight has blown up, a gigantic public row in which I have been smeared with all sorts of unpleasantness.
‘That’s why I am stepping back into the spotlight and announcing my candidacy as party leader and head of the list of election candidates.’
— Forum voor Democratie (@fvdemocratie) November 25, 2020
In recent days the party has cracked open as its other MP Theo Hiddema resigned from parliament, Baudet’s mentor Paul Cliteur stepped down as a senator and several prominent members openly criticised his leadership.
The row burst into the open on Saturday when Het Parool newspaper published screenshots of racist and anti-Semitic messages that circulated in app groups run by the party’s youth wing, JFVD. The party expelled three members who were responsible for sending some of the messages in May, but last week it emerged that five whistleblowers who raised the issue had also been thrown out.
Baudet came under fire for protecting the head of the youth wing, Freek Jansen, and refusing to remove him from the slate of candidates for next year’s election. Dutch media reported sources saying Baudet had threatened to resign if Jansen was forced out.
The most vocal critic was senator and Amsterdam city councillor, Annabel Nanninga, who posted a blistering attack on Baudet on website TPO in which she berated his ‘erratic behaviour’ and ‘controversial flimflam’. ‘Behind closed doors he has been completely impossible for the last few days,’ she wrote. ‘It is a farce.’
Baudet, for his part, claimed he had become embroiled in a ‘trial by media’ and called for the party to wait for the outcome of an internal inquiry into allegations of neo-Nazi elements in the youth wing.
But several of the candidates for next year’s election lined up behind Nanninga, including the number three on the list, Nicki Pouw, who commented: ‘Annabel Nanninga is the most courageous woman I know.’
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